But after a Forest Service employee in Idaho posted a photo of himself with a wolf that he had trapped and shot, wolf activists erupted in outrage. And last week several groups filed notice of their intent to sue, challenging Wyoming's right to manage wolves on grounds including that its plan would allow for wolves to be treated as predators — and shot on sight — in most of the state.
Noah Greenwald, endangered species director for the advocacy group Center for Biological Diversity, said that federal officials have declared wolves recovered not because they had finished the job but "because they want to avoid the political controversy that wolves generate."
Wyoming Game and Fish Department spokesman Eric Keszler said there are "hardly any wolves" living in an area where they can be shot on sight, since the vast majority of the state's 328 wolves live in the northwestern part of the state. The federal government will continue to oversee the wolves living in Wyoming's section of Yellowstone, and the state will treat most wolves as trophy game, which requires a license.
"It's not going to be the mass slaughter of wolves that some people talk about," Keszler said.
Neil Thagard, a big-game hunter based in Cody, Wyo., who serves as Western outreach director for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, said people should let the wildlife managers decide the appropriate level for wolves and allow them to use the tools they need, including hunting. He added that many of his fellow hunters exaggerate wolves' impact on both livestock and game.
Ashe acknowledged that the Fish and Wildlife Service had not figured out how to overcome the fact than some people in the rural West view wolves more as a threat than an asset. "If I could wave a magic wand and go back to the early '90s, I think we had the biology right, but we didn't build the social context for wolf conservation before we put wolves out on the landscape," he said.